Two More Unionists Suspended at Phnom Penh Factory

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Workers protest outside the New Mingda garment factory in Phnom Penh on November 2, 2022. (Hean Rangsey/VOD)

Phnom Penh’s New Mingda garment factory suspended two more workers who had been trying to form a union, workers said, following a protest there last week over the dismissal of another union leader.

The suspensions came after 15 workers tried to start a union at the factory about two months ago as they felt they were exploited by the factory, said Bun Sophy, one of the two unionists suspended this week.

He said he was not given a reason for his suspension, and that it did not come with a time frame to return.

Last week San Lahout, the union’s vice president, was fired, leading to a protest of hundreds on Veng Sreng Blvd. On Thursday, Sophy, the union’s president, was suspended alongside union secretary Phat Sreyrong, he said.

“This factory lays off workers and ends contracts without following the Labor Law. Once he doesn’t like a worker, he immediately dismisses them,” Sophy said.

The factory previously fired five workers in August, but a protest of around 800 workers led to their reinstatement.

A factory representative for New Mingda declined to answer questions on Thursday.

The factory manufactured clothes for the U.S. brand Lands’ End in 2021, according to trade data portal Panjiva.

Another garment worker, Horn Sokkha, said the suspensions amounted to discrimination against the union. It would file a complaint with the Labor Ministry to reinstate the three workers, she said.

“They did nothing wrong,” Sokkha said, adding that the law protected union leaders from dismissal except under special conditions.

Ou Ratana, the Labor Ministry’s deputy chief of dispute intervention, said the ministry was looking into the case, “but hasn’t gotten any results yet.”

Cambodian Livelihood Development Association president Prom Bunthorn said the ministry needed to take action against the repeated dismissals. “The Labor Ministry should be stricter and more effective in this case. It is a discrimination and violation of labor rights. The ministry is the main actor that could push the factory to respect labor rights and conditions.”

In April, the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union reported that around 1,400 workers had been laid off trying to form union groups since 2015.

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